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Updated: November 26th, 2010 12:08pm
Twins win rights to infielder Nishioka; middle infield up in the air

Twins win rights to infielder Nishioka; middle infield up in the air

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Twins announced on Friday the Chiba Lotte Marines have accepted their bid for Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

The Twins now have 30 days to complete a deal with Nishioka, 26, who hit .346/.423/.482 with 11 home runs and 20 stolen bases last season in the Japan Pacific League.

Per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the winning bid was $5.3 million.

Nishioka, who has the ability to play both shortstop and second base, hit .293/.364/.426 with 55 home runs and 174 stolen bases in 3,111 at bats during his Japanese career.

The Twins offered salary arbitration to Type-B free agent Orlando Hudson on November 23. Hudson, who earned $5 million in 2010, must decide whether to accept or decline by November 30.

The Twins have until December 2 to offer arbitration to players under team control -- a group that includes shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Bill Smith have been consistent this offseason in their desire for more speed on defense and in the Twins lineup. Last week, Gardenhire all but said Alexi Casilla would have a starting role somewhere in the middle infield.

"It's time to get him back out there," Gardenhire said about Casilla, who has hit just .249/.306/.327 in 1,073 career plate appearances. "He had a good year a couple years ago."

"He'll have to earn it in Spring Training, but I'm hoping that I've sure got this guy in the lineup somewhere."

Gardenhire also said the Twins are exploring options outside of Hardy, which became apparent with the bid on Nishioka.

With Casilla, Hardy, possibly Hudson, and now potentially Nishioka -- assuming the Twins reach a deal -- the team has several options to sift through at middle infield.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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